Candidate mingles at fundraiser
During a fundraising dash through downtown Baton Rouge on Monday, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney lambasted President Barack Obama for cronyism and outsourcing.
“The president’s policies have failed the American people and that’s why in November they’re going to replace him ... The reason he failed was that the policies he pursued were the old, favored, liberal policies of the past,” Romney told substantial contributors to his campaign during a steak and shrimp luncheon at the City Club.
Meanwhile, the Romney camp disputed media reports that the former Massachusetts governor has decided on his running mate.
“No decision has been made,” senior Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom told pool reporters.
Fehrnstrom said Romney and Gov. Bobby Jindal did not discuss the vice presidency Monday during a private meeting.
Roughly three dozen people paid $50,000 to eat lunch and pose for photographs with Romney during a rare campaign visit to Louisiana. Louisiana is considered a lock for the GOP in the presidential race.
Obama is scheduled to speak at the National Urban League’s annual conference next week in New Orleans.
Among those spotted leaving the City Club Monday were Baton Rouge contractor Lane Grigsby, state Rep. Gordon Dove, R-Houma, and Saints football team executive Rita Benson LeBlanc.
Jindal and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins met privately with Romney.
Both Romney and Jindal exited through a side door without speaking to reporters. “They discussed education policy, among other things,” said Jindal’s spokeswoman, Shannon Bates.
Perkins said social conservatives are coming together behind Romney, whom he acknowledged was not his first choice.
He said Romney made several remarks in favor of family values.
“The relationship is building,” Perkins said.
Outside the City Club, supporters, protesters and curious passersby jostled with news cameras for a position on a median. Claiming that public sidewalks were off limits to news reporters because of a “no standing” law usually designed to discourage idling motorists, police officers scolded media who tried to talk to those who attended the fundraiser.
Romney emerged from the City Club after several hours to mingled chants of “Obama” and “Mitt! Mitt!” from protesters and supporters. He waved to the small crowd before climbing into a Suburban to make his way to the airport.
Lori Dossett, of Prairieville, and Shari Morman, of Baton Rouge, used their lunch hour to huddle on a median across the street from the City Club. “We wanted to catch a glimpse of hopefully our new president,” Dossett said.
They came away satisfied, after the motorcade passed in front of them with a waving Romney visible behind the tinted window.
Among the protesters, a recurring theme was a push for Romney to publicly release multiple years of income tax returns.
Lewis Campbell, of Walker, held a sign that read: “Hey Mitt, Show me yours and I’ll show you mine!”
Campbell, a former educator, said he sometimes feels like he is the only Democrat in Livingston Parish. “I thought it would be fun to show the rest of the state there are Democrats,” he said.
Campbell said he also wanted a peek at who paid $50,000 to have lunch with Romney.
Gloria Jordan Hall, of Baton Rouge, helped Carol Brackins, also of Baton Rouge, hold a sign that read: “Go home Romney, take Bubby Jindal with you.” Brackins said they purposely misspelled Jindal’s first name.
Brackins said the governor is driven by political ambitions.
Inside the City Club, the menu included shrimp salad, prime beef tenderloin and white chocolate bread pudding. Romney encouraged contributors to dive into “the most expensive lunch you’ve ever attended.”
A handful of pool reporters was allowed into the private second-floor dining room to hear Jindal introduce Romney and then listen to several minutes of Romney’s speech. Reporters were escorted out prior to a question-and-answer session.
Times-Picayune reporter Jeff Adelson, selected as the local pool reporter, shared audio of the remarks by Jindal and Romney with other news media.
Jindal, who has hit the campaign trail for Romney, criticized what he characterized as negative advertising by Obama.
“He cannot run on his record, he can’t run on his political philosophy so he has to attack and distort,” the governor said.
He said Obama failed to energize the economy despite promising to do so during his first presidential campaign.
Romney picked up the economy thread by accusing Obama of outsourcing jobs by approving a $529 million federal government loan guarantee for automotive company Fisker. The company’s assembly line is in Finland.
“I’m referring to him as the outsourcer-in-chief,” he said.